Summary of the main findings of the Australian Report on Clerical Sexual abuse

These are the main findings of the report, (see previous posting), as compiled by the Centre which sponsored the work.  To put it mildly, it is fairly dramatic; it delves into the underlying causes of clerical sexual abuse in a way that the various Irish reports seriously failed to do. (The only exception to this is Marie Keenan’s study.)

Its authors, Professor Des Cahill and Dr Peter Wilkinson, are both ordained priests who resigned from church ministry in the 1970s.

Among the report’s main findings:

While not the direct cause, mandatory celibacy has been and remains the major precipitating risk factor for child sexual abuse. The best studies across the world show that about one in 15 priests offended, though rates differed across dioceses and among religious congregations.

Young and vulnerable Catholic children, especially boys, were and remain at risk from psychosexually immature, sexually deprived and deeply frustrated priests and religious brothers lacking intimacy, particularly those who have not resolved their own sexual identity and whose thinking is deeply distorted and mutated towards children.

Though homosexuality is not a direct cause of abuse, the deeply homophobic environment within the Church and its seminaries, based on the teaching that homosexuality is an intrinsically disordered state and that all gays must lead a celibate life, contributes to psychosexual immaturity.

While there are other factors, the risk of offending has been much higher among religious brothers with little contact with women – educated at male-only schools and trained for religious life in male-only institutions before being appointed to male-only schools and living in all-male communities. The lack of the feminine and the denigration of women within Church structures is one key, underlying risk factor in the abuse.

Priest and religious predators have benefited from easy access to children in parishes and schools, particularly those living in one-priest presbyteries and with access to a car. The risk was especially high in countries like Australia and Ireland which historically had a large number of orphanages and residential schools.

The risk of predation is highest in residential settings. That risk continues today, particularly in India and Italy, which have a significant proportion of the Church’s remaining 9,500 orphanages.

Pope Pius X’s 1910 decision to lower the age at which children make their first confession to seven years indirectly contributed to putting more children at risk.

Popes and bishops created a culture of secrecy, leading to a series of gross failures in transparency, accountability, openness and trust as they endeavoured to protect the Church’s reputation as an all-holy institution above all else, even at the expense of children’s safety.